Here a list of the features you can find in all the ukuleles I build.
I put a 0-Fret in all of my ukuleles: I think it helps a lot in finding a good intonation and in having the most comfortable action at the nut. This features also gives a better tone balance between fretted and unfretted notes.
I try to build instruments’ bodies as light as I can, since I believe it has a lot to do with the final sound richness.
I also like elegant designs so I tend to build instrument with low sides that give a slimmer general appearance. Low sides help me also in shaping the sound, as they are stiffer they let the soundboard vibrate more.
I like to control the final sound of the instrument also through to the string choice. I personally “produce” my own strings starting from high quality fluorocarbon fishing line spools. After a lot of experiments I now found the combination of brands and gauges that I like. I gained enough experience to retouch the instrument’s feeling and sound by working on these variables.
Of course an artisan musical instrument is far more expensive than a factory made one, but if you are a little bit into the professional handmade ukulele scene, you’ll notice that my prices are below average. Is that because I lack in quality? Is that because the other makers ask more than the necessary? None of these! It’s just because I chose to take a different path. I’m aiming for a leaner production and a smart design. Certain processes are left to modern machines and digital manufactury, so I have more time for the ones in which human hand, creativity and sesitivity are indispensable.
I’m very passionate about materials. I spend a lot of time searching the right ingredient for a specific job, and making sure that it respects my principles in terms of ethics and eco-sustainability. If you passed by my laboratory I could talk for hours about the spruce grain or the particularities of the vulcanized fiber … surely it is more practical to read below 🙂
Val di Fiemme red spruce
Red spruce is the first choice for the soundboard in the classical luthierie , it is light stiff and, depending on the tree, it can have some nice figures in the grain. The red spruce I use comes from the Paneveggio forest in Val di Fiemme, the same wood Antonio Stradivari preferred for his instruments.
Instruments’ necks, fretboards, backs and sides are usually made of hardwood, that gives the necessary rigidity, hardness or sound reflectivity. I chose not to use exotic hardwoods. I prefer local woods, or at least woods that are common in many regions.
This “purification process” is still work in progress, I still make some small exceptions with mahogany (given the large quantity still in stock) for necks and electrics’ bodies, but I plan to finish it soon.
Anyhow, woods classified as at risk are strictly banned from my laboratory.
Non-toxic and inert, vulcanized fibre is dangerous emissions free, even if burned or inhaled (powder) being 100% cotton, so completely ecological and eco-friendly on waste disposal. I use it as substitute for black binding and purfling material (often plastic made) and for the logo on the headstocks. It’s made from a lot of thin layers of fibers and this reveals a non-uniform color when shaped, scraped or sanded, giving a touch of naturalness in an otherwise jet-black surface.
I have been trained in the use of traditional instrument making finishes, but unfortunately (I like them very much) they have proved to be too slow and laborious for the ukulele making. So I started researching a lot in this field, in terms of effectiveness, beauty, ease of application, resistance and safety. After many attempts I came to Rubio Oil and I fell in love with it. It gives an extremely smooth surface that is a pleasure to touch, it’s 0% VOC and environmentally friendly. It creates a very thin film that leaves the wood free to vibrate and effectively protects it from dirt and ageing . It’s of course less scratch resistant than a thick varnish film, but on the other hand it’s easily repairable by anyone (I can provide a maintenance kit).
I use SuperSap epoxy from the brand Entropy Resins. Unlike the traditional epoxies, it’s manufactured using renewable plant-based carbon in place of petroleum-based carbon. Additionally, the raw materials going into SuperSap resins are co-products or waste products of other industrially important processes which means they do not compete with food sources or displace food-based agriculture. I use it for the resin-castings on UFOS models and for the resin-infusion necessary to build the Sacco models.
Waterbased gloss finish
Even if my standard finish is the satin Rubio Oil, I offer the option of a gloss finish. Also in this case I wanted to source a product that is safe for me and for the enviroment, effective and reliable. I found all of these features in Crystalac, a waterbase finish that is environmentally safe, with low V.O.C and with no toxic chemicals.
It gives a very hard and clear film, able to protect and beautify your instrument.
I use Jute to create the bio-composite shell of Sacco models. The process behind this is the same of the one used for carbon fibre parts, but in this case I use a natural fibre. Jute is very strong and, mixed with resin, it creates really resistant objects. The same concept could be applied to other natural fibres like hemp or flax (that actually are even stronger, but since I’m not building jet wings or wind turbines the difference is negligible), but I chose jute for the rustic and humble appearance.